The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) has raised its emergency preparedness to the highest level.
In a statement on Friday, health officials from HUS revealed that Markku Mäkijärvi, acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HUS, made the decision to raise the preparedness level in light of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and increasing staff absences due to illness.
Mäkijärvi cites the growing number of influenza, RSV and Covid-19 cases as the primary cause for increasing employee absences in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
"For instance, close to a hundred surgical nurses are currently on sick leave. This is about two to three times higher than the normal amount," he stated.
The surge in coronavirus cases can also be attributed to rising vaccine hesitancy among the unvaccinated population and waning vaccine immunity among those who have already been inoculated against the virus.
In practice, the highest level of preparedness, or preparedness level 3, means that either the CEO or an official authorised by them manages all operations, which includes all HUS's resources and units.
"This way we ensure that HUS performs at maximum efficiency in case of emergency situations," Mäkijärvi explained.
The hospital district had planned its operations for the Christmas season with the Delta variant in mind, and did not expect so many staff absences, according to the statement.
Highest preparedness level for the second time
HUS's guidelines define three levels of emergency preparedness. Officials initiated level 2 preparedness on 9 November.
The hospital district previously raised its preparedness to the maximum level after a surge in Covid-19 cases in Spring 2020.
"This reflects the situation well. We are taking the future risks very seriously," Mäkijärvi added.